Oct 26 (Reuters) - Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen saved two Atlanta United penalties in a shootout on Thursday as the Crew advanced to the Major League Soccer semi-finals 3-1 after neither team could break the deadlock through extra time.
Steffen got down smartly to save from Julian Gressel then saved Leandro González Pirez’s weak effort. Jeff Larentowicz hit the post with Atlanta’s fourth kick.
Crew substitute Adam Jahn scored the clincher in the shootout to silence the near 70,000 fans at Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The result ended an otherwise impressive first season by the expansion Atlanta team, who set league attendance records and played an eye-catching brand of football led by South American duo Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez.
The Crew, who have one of the lowest attendance records in the league and an owner threatening to move the franchise to Austin unless the city of Columbus builds a new stadium, go on to an Eastern Conference semi-final against New York City FC.
“It was my time to do my job,” Steffen said after the game, describing the victory as “the biggest” of his short career.
Apart from the shootout, the 22-year-old from Pennsylvania, signed from German club Freiberg in 2016, also made a series of fine saves during the match.
None was better than the one in the 65th minute when he launched himself to the left to turn away a header by Atlanta defender Pirez.
“We had a game plan and we stuck to it and got it done,” Steffen said. “This is huge. This goes back to the city of Columbus.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford;